Sweet Talk – Types of Sugar in your Food

By Sheila Kun RN, BSN, MS, CPN, FCCP

As we are paying more attention to the increase in incidences of obesity and diabetes, we often focus on what we should eat, namely, how much “sugar and carbohydrates” is not considered excessive. I thought we might want to understand the many faces of sugar and how that relates to carbohydrates in the upcoming weeks.

*Scientifically, sugar loosely refers to a number of carbohydrates; “simple sugars,” the most important being glucose and complex sugars. Complex sugars contain three or more units of sugar. As sugar is a carbohydrate, complex sugars are often referred to as complex carbohydrates, although this term encompasses other items including starches. This week, we will examine only the simple and complex sugars.

Fructose, galactose, and glucose are all simple sugars.

Fructose, or fruit sugar, occurs naturally in fruits, some root vegetables, cane sugar and honey and is the sweetest of the sugars. It is one of the components of sucrose or table sugar. It is used as a high-fructose syrup, which is manufactured from hydrolyzed corn starch that has been processed to yield corn syrup, with enzymes then added to convert part of the glucose into fructose.

  • Galactose generally does not occur in the free state but is a form of lactose or milk sugar. It is less sweet than glucose.
  • Glucose, or grape sugar, occurs naturally in fruits and plant juices. Most ingested carbohydrates are converted into glucose during digestion and it is the form of sugar that is transported around the bodies of animals in the bloodstream. Glucose syrup is a liquid form of glucose that is widely used in the manufacture of foodstuffs. It can be manufactured from starch.

 Complex sugars

Lactose, maltose, and sucrose are all compound sugars.

Lactose is the naturally occurring sugar found in milk.

Maltose is formed during the germination of certain grains, the most notable being barley, which is converted into malt, the source of the sugar’s name.

  • Sucrose is found in the stems of sugarcane and roots of sugar beet. It also occurs naturally alongside fructose and glucose in other plants, in particular fruits and some roots such as carrots. The different proportions of sugars found in these foods determines the range of sweetness experienced when eating them.

 Sheila’s note: the take home lesson is that when you read the food label, pay attention to the ingredients that end with “ose” – as listed above, they might be a type of sugar. And sugar is a form of carbohydrate.


*Above source is from En.Wikipedia.

Your home work for today from the Care Ministry: Read 2-3 food labels and familiarize yourself with the amount and types of sugar in your food product.

The Care Ministry welcomes your comments/suggestions: kunlouis@gmail.com

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